Tibet, Mahakala – unusual forms (3)

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy) and pigment, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A rare Tibetan sculpture of a three-head and six-hand Mahakala with only two legs, in embrace with his consort, who has one head and six hands. He holds the usual flaying knife and skull cup in his main hands, the others  may have held a drum, a lasso, a rosary and a trident.

Same as before, bronze, private collection, published on http://www.the-saleroom.com.

On late works the one-head and six-hand form of Mahakala may hold a large knife in his upper right hand instead of a rosary. He stands with both feet on Ganapati.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, un-gilt base (brass), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

This is his chaturmukha (four faces) form, with one head stacked on the others, two legs and four hands, in which he holds a sword, a spear (missing), a skull cup and a flying knife.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, copper alloy with cold gold and pigment, at the British Museum in London (UK).

A rich chocolate brown variant with partial gilding and different attributes in his lower hands (a snare and flaming jewels). The four faces are all at the same level.

Undated (early 15th century?), Tibet, Mahakala, gilt metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The legden or danda form of Mahakala has one face with three eyes, two legs, two hands holding a stick (danda) (missing here). He wears felt boots, a long cloak, a skull crown and bone jewellery.

This example is adorned with a profusion of tiny turquoise and lapis lazuli cabochons forming visvajras on his cloak and a rice grain pattern on the hem. His robe, earrings and crown are equally studded with stones.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, ivory, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

In the vyaghra vahana form (rarely seen in sculptures) Mahakala rides a tiger.

This rare example depicts him with human features, wearing Chinese-style jewellery, holding a skull cup and a flaming jewel.

 

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Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja (9)

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

His squarish and friendly face with round eyes suggests this masterpiece was made no later than the 17th century, possibly before. He is adorned with snakes, a garland of severed heads, a cross belt, a tiger skin knotted around his waist. His upper hands hold the hide of an elephant, a skull rosary, a trident (missing); the middle ones hold a flaying knife and a skull cup filled with blood; the lower ones hold a drum and a lasso (missing).

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A more modern interpretation, with frowning eyebrows, a gaping mouth, red pigment for the hair, eyebrows, moustache and beard, the base and the lasso missing.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel.

On late works shapes are often sharper, more aggressive, the face more threatening.

Same as before.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja (8)

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome bronze (copper alloy) repoussé, base missing, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

The way Mahakala wears the tiger skin with the tail showing at the front,  his flame-like hair, his fancy necklaces, the terribly ferocious facial features, all help date the piece. The missing attributes are a flaying knife and a skull cup in the main hands, a drum and a lasso in the lower ones, a rosary, a trident and (the paws of) an elephant hide in the upper ones.

A view of the back shows the head of the tiger dangling down and the cross belt with a visvajra design.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with pigments and stones, at the Royal Ontario Museum (Canada).

The treatment of the eyes and the mouth is very different from early Tibetan works. The above has flaming hair going sideways, a celestial scarf with serpentine ends, plump limbs, all typical of the period and seen on Mongolian and Sino-Tibetan works too. He has both feet on Ganapati.

Some attributes are lost but he still has the elephant hide stretched across his back.

Same as before, Navin Kumar collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Another version, standing straight and wearing a transparent garment over the tiger skin dhoti.

17th-18th century, Tibet or Mongolia, Mahakala, silver on a gilt copper alloy pedestal, at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (USA).

This is the white form of the deity – hence the use of silver – standing on two victims. He holds a flaming wish-granting jewel (triratna) and a skull cup in his main hands, a flaying knife and trident in the upper ones, a drum and a vajra hook in the others. No elephant hide or tiger skin but a long skirt-like lower garment.

Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja (7)

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Mahakala in his shadbhuja (6 hands) form holds a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands, a drum and a lasso in the lower ones, a rosary made of small skulls, a trident made of three lotus stalks (broken here) and the hide of an elephant in the upper ones.

He is clad in a tiger skin loin cloth knotted at the front, and adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads, bone jewellery with a jewel motif and a matching cross-belt.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, lacquered wood, same as before.

On this Chinese-style example, with some attributes missing but the lotus base preserved, he  stands on Ganapati, the elephant-headed deity, and is adorned with snakes around his neck, wrists and ankles.

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, stone, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

For this stele made of black stone, the artist (or someone else at a later stage) has used cold gold only for the head and highlighted the hair, eyebrows, beard and moustache with red pigment.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The above holds an extra animal skin (leopard or tiger) across his back. He stands on a Pala-revival lotus base with small heart-shaped petals.

When wrathful deities hold a lasso they often have it wound around their left forefinger. On this masterpiece, Mahakala wears a long serpent knotted in an elaborate fashion instead of a sacred thread and Ganapati is also adorned with serpentine jewellery and holding a skull cup filled with blood.

Tibet, Mahakala – unusual forms (2)

13th century ( later pedestal?), Tibet, Mahakala, bronze, private collection, photo by Hayman Himalayan Art.

Standing in the alida pose (powerful kick),  Mahakala in his two-hand form holds a skull cup and a flaying knife with a vajra handle. The flaying knife is normally held over the skull cup (and often in the right hand). He is adorned with snakes, including a long one worn as a sacred thread, and a garland of freshly severed heads.

His eyes and urna are inlaid with copper, his teeth, his moustache and the rosettes on his skull crown are inlaid with silver, his beard is stippled, his mitre-like hair is fastened with two cobra snakes.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala (labelled Vajrapani), wood, at the Liverpool Museum (UK).

It is unusual for the two-hand form of Mahakala with knife and skull cup to stand this way (he normally squats over a victim). The above only has one foot over his victim.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala,  bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Bonhams.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – Panjarnata (4)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

This form of Mahakala has one head with three eyes and bared fangs, two hands holding a flaying knife and skull cup, and two legs, both bent as if crouching. There is normally a victim lying face upward under his feet.

The above has red pigment on his mitre-like hair. He wears a five-skull crown, jewellery, a sacred thread and a celestial scarf .

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, painted clay, at the Newark Museum (USA).

On this small clay sculpture (9,5 cm) he holds a danda stick across his chest. His hair, eyebrows, mouth and lower garment are also painted red.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, stone and pigments, at the Art Institute of Chicago (USA).

We saw in a previous post two examples of panjarnata Mahakala seated rather than squatting, only the most recent one came complete with a victim under him. Part of his celestial scarf is broken but we can see how it formed an arch behind his head. There is an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress and a long snake knotted across his belly in the guise of a sacred thread.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (USA).

His danda stick has a flaming jewel at each end. The above wears his hair gathered in a bunch and topped with a half-vajra finial. He wears a garland of severed heads, a snake cord and beaded accessories including a belt with raining jewel pendants.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome wood, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

His hair is usually fastened with a cobra snake (or two).

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, wood with pigments, private collection, photo by Astamangala.

On paintings he stands amidst blazing fire. On sculptures he may have a showy flaming mandorla attached to his back.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper and pigments, at a Sakyapa monastery.

Tibet, Mahakala – unusual forms

Some forms of Mahakala are rarely seen, and almost exclusively on paintings.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Kakaya karma, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby's.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Kakaya karma, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This is the raven-headed form of Mahakala (with three eyes and flaming hair), also known as Kakamukha. He holds a flaying knife in his right hand and another object in the other (instead of the standard skull cup) .He is adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads, bone jewellery, a Chinese-style flowing scarf.

Mahakala Kakaya karma, Tibet, 17th c., gilt c.a., 18,5 cm, raven head, 3 eyes, close up

He wears a tiger skin dhoti (the paws of the animal are showing below the garland of severed heads), a cross-belt with a raining-jewel pendant, and some kind of sash or belt ending with raining jewels.

Undated, Tibet, Bernag Chen, stone, at the New Delhi Museum.

Undated (15th century circa?), Tibet, Bernag Chen, stone, at the Tibet House Museum in New, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Bernag Chen (“black cloak”) is a form of Mahakala proper to Tibet. He has one head with three eyes and flaming hair, two hands in which he holds a flaying knife and a skull cup, and two legs which stand on a victim. Surrounded with flames, he is adorned with the usual skull crown, garland of severed heads, bone jewellery, and wears a large cloak.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala Vyaghra Vahana, wood, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala, Vyaghra Vahana, wood, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

This more modern work depicts him in a similar form but he rides a tiger and holds a flaming sword.